September 2009 Story Tips
Story ideas from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory. To arrange for an interview with a researcher, please contact the Communications and External Relations staff member identified at the end of each tip.
Specialized cameras at weigh stations in Kentucky are helping ensure that operators of commercial vehicles are abiding by all state and federal laws with the payoff expected to be safer highways and more money in the coffers of the Bluegrass State. The system takes advantage of a technology developed by a team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Cyrus Smith. In seconds the system can determine a vehicle's safety rating, whether it is stolen or has out-of-service orders and myriad other information. Commercial vehicle enforcement officers typically select trucks for inspection at random, but this system helps them to inspect based on safety ratings and other discriminating factors. And because the system instantly checks registration, insurance and tax status, officers can write tickets to violators. Smith expects the system in Kentucky to become a model for the nation. Funding for ORNL's portion of the project is provided by the Southeast Regional Research Initiative, funded through the Department of Homeland Security. [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226; firstname.lastname@example.org]
Oak Ridge National Laboratory is partnering with SBE Inc., a Barre, Vt., power and electronics firm, to help test and improve electric vehicle capacitors. The Power Electronics and Electric Machinery Research Center, part of ORNL's Energy and Transportation Science Division, will assess and evaluate SBE's capacitor technologies and their applicability for use as direct current buss capacitors for electric drives in hybrid, plug-in hybrid, electric, and fuel cell vehicles. ORNL also will develop a test procedure that will exercise the capacitors and determine their reliability and safe operation limits. The collaborative work is funded by $550,000 granted under the "Electric Drive Vehicle Battery and Component Manufacturing Initiative" of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. [Contact: Kathy Graham; 865.946.1861; email@example.com]
Even the smallest detail has been included in an Oak Ridge National Laboratory study that examines the consumption and release of carbon by humans. The study provides calculations for carbon intake, expiration and excretions of people, and includes a geographical map that paints a clear picture of where these releases are occurring. Of note is that the spatial distribution of carbon release by humans is nearly opposite the distribution of carbon uptake by agricultural crops. Tristram West, lead author of the paper published in Biogeochemistry, noted that with a global population exceeding 6.5 billion, humans move large amounts of carbon on the Earth's surface. "Humans are using, storing and transporting carbon about the Earth's surface," West said. "Inclusion of these carbon dynamics can improve our understanding of carbon sources and sinks." This study utilized many resources, including the LandScan Global Population Database, a unique high-resolution tool developed and maintained by ORNL. The research was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and the Department of Energy's Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center. [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226; firstname.lastname@example.org]
Thin-layer chromatography, a lab technique for separating mixtures, produces high-resolution separations faster and at lower costs than other methods. But TLC doesn't work well with mass spectrometry, which uses other separation methods such as higher performance liquid chromatography to identify or quantify the chemical components in a sample. Gary Van Berkel, who heads ORNL's Organic and Biological Mass Spectrometry group, and colleagues have teamed with thin-layer chromatography companies Camag and Merck KGaA to develop mass spectrometry techniques that are compatible with TLC. The new approach has enabled successful sampling and mass spectroscopic analysis of larger biological molecules, such as peptides and proteins, and constituents relevant to food safety and pharmaceutical purity. Various aspects of the project also were supported by DOE's Office of Basic Energy Sciences; MDS Sciex; and Battelle and UT-Battelle maturation funding. [Contact: Mike Bradley; ; ]